And now back to 1976 and another program I’ve never seen before, and probably hadn’t heard of when we started this blog. The Ghosts of Motley Hall is a children’s comedy made by Britain’s Granada Television for three series between 1976 and 1978. It was devised and written by Richard Carpenter and directed by Quentin Lawrence, the duo behind the delightful Catweazle, although that earlier show had been filmed entirely on location and Ghosts is videotaped by three big cameras on a big set, so it certainly doesn’t have all the farms and forests and villages and old railway stations to play in. But that makes sense here, because four of the five ghosts of this story are unable to leave their home.
From left to right in the photo above, that’s Arthur English, Nicholas Le Provost, Sean Flanagan, Sheila Steafel, and Freddie Jones as our ghosts, each from a different period of history and, except for the young fellow in the middle, cursed to haunt the building forever. Matt is the exception; he was a stable boy and has been haunting the stable for the last hundred and sixty or so years, and had no idea there were other ghosts nearby. But after the death of the last living Uproar – at least two of the ghosts are from the Uproar family – Matt overhears a developer and a corrupt building inspector planning to pull down the building, which has sat vacant since the 1950s. He decides to enter the hall since he’ll never have another chance, meets the others, and they work together to foil their scheme, thanks to a little help from the caretaker, played by the wonderful Peter Sallis.
I thought this was a pretty good pilot. It’s not a boisterous physical comedy. It’s whimsical and the tone is a little sweetly sad, and, in the way of these things, there’s not a really great obstacle to overcome because there are five rather extraordinary characters and a very outre situation to introduce in the first episode. But I smiled a lot and thought it was very charming, and, most importantly, our son was really pleased with it. In the end, the ghosts congratulate themselves on saving their hall – for now – and give themselves a round of applause, and our son jumped up and joined them! So not at all bad, and I’m looking forward to seeing what will come next.